It was calculated that Christmas found us with between 6 and 7 millions within the circle of unemployment. Over three million pounds a week are being expended in some form of relief or other.
There appears to be a great diversity of opinion regarding the adequacy of the amount of relief paid. Some believe, and say, the workless are not getting enough. Others believe, and say, they are getting too much. Many people who happen for the time being to be enjoying a comparatively comfortable standard of life, object to the reiteration by the Socialist of the ugly facts of life, saying that, after all, it is only a difference in the point of view.
They mean that if the Socialist would only keep his mouth shut, things would go along much more quietly. The “poor” would be much more content if left alone. But it is not in accord with the principles of a Socialist to go about with his eyes and mouth shut. He is not going to be quiet about anything that affects the existence of the class to which he belongs. The “poor ” don’t make half the noise they ought to. But it is something more than that, even. The Socialist presents facts, and interprets those facts by the application of a scientific method. When this is done, it is not a question of a point of view at all, but the acceptance of proved testimony. If those facts are of a damaging nature to some people, they will reject them and conveniently adopt a “point of view.”
But this so-called point of view itself is determined largely by the economic conditions under which the individual happens to be living. The question of relative security, for instance. Whilst hunger and poverty of themselves will not make a person into a Socialist, they will yet enable him to distinguish between what might be termed a good time and a rotten one.
Everything is relative—we should go into ecstasies if we were suddenly rewarded with another ten shillings a week, believing we could work wonders with it. And so the Governor of South Australia is resigning his job because he finds his wage of £4,000 a year barely suffices to make ends meet.
If the assurances of our rulers and their working class supporters had been borne out we should now be living in a land abounding in plenty, and with nothing to mar our happiness. What is the actual state ? Does it need describing ? Is not every one of us familiar with it—to our sorrow? It is quite true that a great deal of the actual condition is purposely camouflaged so that the intense misery shall not be apparent.
The capitalists are suffering, too, some of them—not physically like we are, but from a shortage of trade. For trade means exploitation, and exploitation means profits.
Singularly enough, the only solution they can offer lies in a steady lowering of the standard of life and the restoration of a competitive selling capacity in the world’s markets by a reduction in the price of labour-power.
One of the results of the capitalists’ way of running the world is seen in the present plight of Brazil.
Brazil did not, of course, participate actively in the war, but is, nevertheless, as much a sufferer as anyone else. Indeed, this applies to most countries, whether they were belligerents or not. It shows that the capitalist system is interdependent; to be successful all its parts must work smoothly— for the capitalist.
If any disturbance arises within the system, whether it be a financial crisis in peace time, or a war on a big scale, its effects are far-reaching.
The workers, being already poor, are the first to suffer : that is, their sufferings are increased—and they don’t know why.
Primarily, in a system like the present, profits is the first and last thing that matters. It is the only precept the capitalist is guided by: sacred to him as furnishing the initiative which he is prone to regard as the driving force in a capitalist-ridden world.
Before the war Germany imported large quantities of coffee from Brazil. Brazil sold coffee to Germany, not because the Germans were fond of coffee, but because it was profitable to do so. Now, Germany is buying no coffee, not because she doesn’t want it, but because she hasn’t the money to pay for it, and leave the Brazilian planters and exporters with a profit. No profit—no coffee. Brazil retains the coffee, and is in consequence impoverished, with very little money wherewith to buy goods from other countries.
Clearly the lesson is shown : Abolish the system of production only for profits, with its basis of slavery and economic distress, and substitute one of production for use with universal security
In associating itself with any measure in which the master class is interested, the Labour Party betrays the fact that it considers there are some points regarding the administration of capitalism which are mutually advantageous to workers and capitalists alike. An instance is the support given to the idea of disarmament. The Labour Party considers this to be a question on which organised labour should make itself heard.
According to Mr. J. H. Thomas, at the recent Regional Conference at Derby, the Labour Party would go further than the Washington Conference in the matter of limiting armaments. “When the Labour Party demanded disarmament it meant it to apply on land, and in the air, as well as on sea.”
Dear! dear! And who will they “demand ” it of ? Everybody knows that the capitalists themselves are the people who will determine what methods of force shall or shall not, prevail. If we find them “limiting” themselves in any particular direction, it is not in response to any “demand,” it is because it suits them to do so —in this case because they find the process a rather expensive one.
Questions of disarmament are not working class questions. It may be true, as our “leaders” point out, that millions are being spent on improving the fighting machinery, but it concerns us not in the least.
The worker is robbed, once and for all, at the point of production—that is, in the workshop. When he gets his packet at the week-end, he has got all that is coming to him—he has been skinned to the limit. What happens to the wealth he has been robbed of after he has drawn his pay can make not one iota of difference to his position. The main point is—he hasn’t got it. Whether his boss buys cigars or battleships with the money, whether he buys a new car for his wife, or a string of pearls for his mistress, it is all the same—to us.
Armaments, wars, unemployment and poverty are only features of capitalism. They should not be isolated, and efforts concentrated on their abolition, because that is impossible while the system lasts.
The Socialist does not pick out one or two disagreeable things which exist, and concentrate all his energies in “demanding ” of those who are responsible for their existence that they shall forthwith abolish them, for that would be foolish. While the Labour Party is organising to “demand” changes within the capitalist system, the Socialist Party is organising to overthrow the system. There’s the difference.